In a unanimous decision issued last week, the U.S. Supreme Court established a new framework for determining whether an employer can lawfully deny an employee's request for a religious accommodation on the grounds that the requested accommodation constitutes an "undue hardship."

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits covered employers from discriminating against employees because of religion. This means that an employer must accommodate the religious needs of employees whenever doing so will not create "undue hardship" for the employer's business. Common examples of requested religious accommodations include days off from work for religious observances or holidays, as well as break time and space in the workplace to pray. While some employers grant these and other religious accommodations, others deny them on the grounds that granting the accommodations would impose undue hardships on the employers' operations.

Based on a Supreme Court decision issued almost 50 years ago, Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, most courts have held that employers can show that a requested religious accommodation amounts to an undue hardship by presenting evidence that providing the accommodation would require the employer to bear more than a "de minimis" cost. Such costs might be financial, operational, or logistical, making the undue hardship showing an arguably easy evidentiary burden for employers to meet.

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to BenefitsPRO, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical BenefitsPRO information including cutting edge post-reform success strategies, access to educational webcasts and videos, resources from industry leaders, and informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM, BenefitsPRO magazine and events
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including and

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.